Habitat occupancy by Artibeus planirostris bats in the Pantanal wetland, Brazil.
Structural characteristics of vegetation can influence the use of space by Neotropical bats, affecting their local abundance and patterns of activity. In this study, we ask whether vegetation structure determines the occupancy by and detectability of the fruit-eating bat Artibeus planirostris among habitats in the Pantanal wetland. We mistnetted bats in the wet and dry seasons, and measured vegetation structures in 36 sites systematically established each 1 km. The probability of occupancy was negatively influenced by the mean distance between trees, with a pronounced decrease in sites with less than about 16 trees per hectare, and the detectability was negatively influenced by moonlight. Artibeus planirostris tended to widely occupy the available vegetation gradient, from savannas with scattered trees to dense forest patches during the wet season, and to reduce general occupancy of all sites during the dry season. Considering the threshold of 16 trees ha-1, ongoing replacement of savannas and forested areas by exotic pastures for cattle ranching has converted suitable habitats into unhospitable areas for A. planirostris in the Pantanal wetland.